Written by Audrey E. Charles
"Assuredly, you will be with Me in Paradise."
Jesus was hanging between two men that He created, on a cross made from a tree that He created. The men were convicted thieves and both men spoke to Him, but each in a totally different manner. One thief, knowing his guilt but being unrepentant, jeered at the Lord to set them all free from their predicament. To him Jesus was just a way out. The other thief however, recognized Jesus’ innocence and saw the power of His words of forgiveness. He knew he was wrong and deserved death. He desired a way in, so he asked that Jesus remember him when He went into His Kingdom. To this request Jesus responded, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
These two thieves typify the two kinds of people who respond to Jesus…and to you as a Christian. There are those who will see you as a channel for a quick fix out of whatever problem they are facing. They may be willing to share their difficulties with you, but stop short of taking ownership for their own actions. They want you to do the work for them so that they can get on with their lives in the same condition that they are in now.
But then there are those who will recognize the Christ in you, and will sincerely seek to follow you, not just for what you have but for who and Whose you are.
Jesus’ mandate to us before He left the earth was that we should make disciples. Many have taken this directive to heart, and have employed various methods to reach this objective.
In telling the dying thief that he would be with Him in Paradise, Jesus was patterning for us the kind of victory we can often achieve in leading souls into the Kingdom. It happens when we give up the plans and purposes that our limited minds construct, and we simply allow our own lives to be the living testimonies of who Christ is in us. This is simple, but it certainly demands more from us personally than does handing out a tract! It requires that you and I become the walking Word 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days each year because you never know when the Holy Spirit will usher a “thief” into your presence!!
Jesus Himself was the power that brought the repentant thief into the Kingdom of God. He hung on that cross, denying Himself the right to call on myriads of angels to rescue Him. He submitted to the persecution and gave His life over completely to the Father. In doing so, He won over not only the thief next to Him, but many others who witnessed His selfless sacrifice, down to the very last second.
When you and I live our lives with transparent sacrifice, others are able to see the manifested power of God happening now, in real time, and not just read it as a historical event. It is then that this wonderful gospel of the Kingdom of God will have its appeal, as the Holy Spirit woos others to experience the freedom in Christ that you demonstrate.
Are you willing to not only take up your cross, but allow yourself to be nailed to it? Are you willing to be one of those whom Jesus talked about – who would be persecuted for righteousness sake? It doesn’t mean necessarily that people will spit in your face, or that you will have to face physical martyrdom. But when you choose not to go according to the tenets of this world system – even the world system that has infiltrated the church – you automatically open yourself up to persecution. You will face two kinds of “thieves” – those who will jeer and criticize you and those who will be drawn to the Christ in you.
When you ignore the criticisms you give the Holy Spirit a powerful weapon that will draw men unto Christ – the weapon of your sacrificed life that says to seekers, “You too, will be with me in the Kingdom of God.”